Last season, ASU started the season 19-0-0 en route to the program’s first No.1 ACHA ranking.
After another two-game sweep of No. 6 Delaware and a win against Division II NAU, the Sun Devils are on their way to catching last year’s mark, and a big reason why is the top line.
Senior forward Kale Dolinski is putting up video-game-like numbers, leading the ACHA with 29 points in 12 games.
But it’s not just Dolinski who is producing, but his entire line, which also includes junior Liam Norris and senior Danny McAuliffe.
“They’re the best line in the country,” coach Greg Powers said after Saturday’s game.
Dolinski leads the team in points, Norris is second with 20, and McAuliffe is tied for third with 18.
Dolinski is an assistant captain on the team, and he showed why on Saturday.
In the third period, Norris was slammed hard into the boards by an NAU skater. Norris jumped up and started jawing at the NAU player until Dolinski got between them. Dolinski said something to Norris, who turned and skated back to the bench.
“I said, ‘Calm down,’ because I need him,” Dolinski said. “Without him, the three legs of the tripod don’t quite work well.”
Norris’s 15 assists are second on the team to Dolinski’s 19. McAuliffe is tied with senior captain Colin Hekle for second on the team with nine goals, behind only Dolinski’s 10.
Thursday and Friday, No. 6 Delaware was in town and it left Tempe with two very different losses.
Thursday night was the type of game to which ASU is becoming accustomed: a blowout. The Sun Devils beat down the Blue Hens 7-2. Hekle had two goals, and he and Dolinski each scored a short-handed goal.
Friday night was more of what one would expect from the No. 1 and No. 6 teams in the nation.
Three periods were not enough to determine a winner, as it took Hekle’s wrist shot in overtime to secure a 3-2 ASU win.
Saturday was a tense game against a team that ASU was supposed to beat. The Division II Ice Jacks came out ready play, and the game was tied close to midway through the second period. ASU woke up and leaned on its top line, as Dolinski, Norris and McAuliffe registered nine of 14 offensive points to win the game 5-2.
ASU has outscored its opposition 83-14 over its first 13 games, but not every game has been a blowout. Last weekend, ASU went to overtime against Oklahoma, and overtime happened again on Friday against Delaware.
Powers said the overtime wins are good for a team that has dominated so far this season.
“They need to taste adversity,” Powers said. “We haven’t had a lot of it; we’ve hardly had any of it. But as long as they continue to pull through when things are not going our way, then I’m happy.”
All three ASU goalies started this weekend, and all three gave up two goals in his win. Senior Joe D’Elia was too much for the Blue Hens to handle on Thursday, freshman Robert Levin defended the overtime victory on Friday and freshman Lucas Felbel took down the Ice Jacks on Saturday.
ASU has another three-game weekend coming up, playing No. 20 Colorado State and Colorado twice. All three games are at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
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